God calls some people fools. Really? That fact doesn’t square with our modern image of the loving fatherly God who will let us do pretty much whatever we want while we live on earth and then take us straight to heaven on the day we die. No, it cannot be right that God calls some people fools.
But, if not, then we’re calling Jesus, who is God, a liar because in the Gospel reading for this Sunday (the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time from Luke 12) Jesus says exactly that:
“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have bought, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
A maxim of the spiritual life is that each person who is sincere about becoming a saint (that is, getting to heaven), needs to remember to guard against three main tendencies of human nature: Lust, Greed and Power. A priest once told me that he hears many confessions regarding sins of lust but very seldom has anyone confess greed. This is odd in a culture that glorifies greed, isn’t it?
Oh but we are quick to refute that claim. Glorify greed? That’s a little extreme, isn’t it? Well, no it isn’t.
- Consider the fact that we live and breathe a consumer-driven culture in which a typical commercial break on television consists of at least ten back-to-back ads that assure us that it isn’t possible to be happy without the newest car, the newest diet or the best vacation with a significant other who happens to have a perfect body. Even though we mute the ads or change the channel, if we’re not aware of the subtlety of temptation, at some point we begin to believe them.
- Consider the pushback that Pope Francis has received, not from the secular media but the Catholic media, regarding his repeated statements that “I would like a poor Church for the poor.” From the moment he decided to wear black shoes instead of red, to wash the feet of two female prisoners last Holy Thursday, to carry his own briefcase up the airplane steps or to reside in a guesthouse, the Holy Father has challenged our assumptions of entitlement by his actions as well as his words.
- Consider how uncomfortable or defensive many western Catholics become when questioned about what we believe to be personal choices and, therefore, no one else’s business. For example: Was it necessary to confine a parent to a nursing home when she didn’t want to go? Was it necessary to purchase a second home? Was it necessary to pay thousands of dollars to ensure that our son/daughter gets into a good fraternity or sorority in college?
The truth is, there is no such thing as a private decision that doesn’t affect someone else. The truth is, it is past time for every one who claims to believe in Christ to put to death “the greed that is idolatry”, like today’s second reading from Colossians instructs us to do and to “think of what is above, not what is on earth” because I can think of no worse end to my life than to hear God say, “You fool…”